Thursday, December 17, 2015

Solstice Gift

In the fourth century, Christians envied the feasting of pagans in honor of the sun's birthday at the winter solstice. Christians created their own feast in honor of Jesus, whom they called the "true sun." This was the birthday of Christmas.

Whatever the meaning of Christmas for you, I hope this poem by John O'Donohue infuses you with hope appropriate to this solstice time of new beginnings. The poem fills me with courage to face new possibilities. John O'Donohue was an Irish poet and priest.
     In out-of-the way places of the heart,
     Where your thoughts never think to wander,
     This beginning has been quietly forming,
     Waiting until you were ready to emerge. 
     For a long time it has watched your desire,
     Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
     Noticing how you willed yourself on,
     Still unable to leave what you had outgrown. 
     It watched you play with the seduction of safety
     And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
     Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
     Wondered would you always live like this. 
     Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
     And out you stepped onto new ground,
     Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
     A path of plenitude opening before you. 
     Though your destination is not yet clear,
     You can trust the promise of this opening;
     Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
     That is at one with your heart's desire. 
     Awaken your spirit to adventure;
     Hold nothing back; learn to find ease in risk;
     Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
     For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
This is my Christmas present to you, dear readers.

      

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Let’s Hospice Our Church

John Chuchman is a Catholic, to my observation, a Catholic like I’m a Catholic.  It’s our spiritual home, come what may. It remains our blood family, no matter what differences we have with it. John and I exchanged books and I quote extensively (with permission and editing license) from one of his—Let’s Hospice Our Church:

            We are in a demographic collapse
                        of the priesthood.
            Anecdotes abound throughout the Church
                        about how the collar
                        trumps intellectual competence.
            
When are we going to pay attention?
The wheels are coming off the bus,
 and we are debating whether the seats
on the bus should be cloth or leather.

                        Priests are on anti-depressants.
            Congregations feel betrayed by Church leadership.

            It is no secret there is a widening chasm
            between official Church teachings
                        on human sexuality
            and the actual behavior of the vast majority
                        of the Catholic population.
            We don’t believe, deep down
            that the Church’s teaching is correct.

            The Magisterium has heavily invested its authority
            in maintaining these traditional teachings.

                        The Church is simply irrelevant.
The younger generation has simply decided to move on.
                        The Church is dying;
a new Church is being born.

            Hospice consciousness requires that we recognize
                                    the transition,
                                    the loss,
            the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression.

            Hope requires the willingness to work
                        for a non-guaranteed future.
            Prophets listen to groans of the people
                          and posit an alternate future.

12-10-2015
More than one responder to the previous post mentioned the last stage of the grief process—acceptance. Yes. In fact, Christians are far from accepting the demise of our great religion, but in its present form it will not continue. This the signs clearly show.
Many of my readers agree.
Deb commented,
very symbolic article for the future of Christianity as a world religion unless there is change.
Steve Applegate said,
The Church has no one but itself to blame. It persists in being a medieval institution. It could make key changes to become relevant again, but it chooses not to do so. If it passes from the scene, I will miss the one thing it excels in—worldwide missions to the poor.
Anonymous was struck by the title of my email invitation, “The Church is dying,” before she even looked at the title, “Let’s Hospice Our Church.”
I think the church is in the midst of a transformation/revolution—a repudiation of the old, out-of-date ways of being, in favor of a new system that is in fact truer to its original intent. The old has to die so the new can be reborn.
And many people fight change, maybe out of misunderstanding, maybe out of literal interpretations, maybe out of fear of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
But according to Ecclesiastes 3:
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.
a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to build up;
a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to get and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away;
a time to rend and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate; a time of war and a time of peace.
Clearly, we live in a time of change. Unless Christianity adapts, it will eventually die. I’ll state my belief more starkly. I believe that it is dying right now, and I accept this. My generation still derives spiritual benefits from our religion, but this will diminish in succeeding generations as a new spiritual paradigm takes shape.
After I posted this, Mike emailed this information. Pope Francis seems to agree with me and my readers. I had read this and then forgot about it. Thanks, Mike.

*Editing note. As usual when I quote emails, I take the liberty of changing mechanics like punctuation, capitalization, etc.
Readers who pay attention to mechanics may think that I use upper and lower cases inconsistently with certain words, but I really try to be consistent. I consistently write “Church” when I mean the Catholic Church, and I write “church” when I refer to all Christian churches. I critique both.                      

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I thank my readers

My readers keep me going, as I often say in reply to their gracious compliments. John Chuchman kindly forwarded an email to me.
Clancy's book reminds me of a simpler version of Ilia Delio. She writes of the relationship of science and spirituality in a way I can more easily understand.
Just what you said... "Every poem is vulnerable to myriad explanations out of the poet's control."
Which, to me, is a good thing.
Love, Sue
The quotation sounded familiar. I guessed a sentence of mine in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky had been adapted to the discussion they were having about John's poetry. As he included Sue's address, I emailed her.
I can't find the quote in my book but I think I said it of Jesus' parables.
She replied,
Yes indeed, that quote is from your book, page 120, Image and Symbol. I have it underlined and dog-eared as are many pages. I sent that particular quote to John, our resident poet laureate!
I found the quotation, word for word, not adapted. She went on,
So engrossed in your book. I love how you have portrayed Jesus as a man full of life as we know it and live it....laughing, partying, hanging out with the wrong crowd, ridiculed and suffering the ultimate. 
Your writing brought home to me how far we have removed ourselves from his true story. How he would smile at your words and nod his head in agreement.
Asking permission to quote her, I replied,
Yours are some of the nicest things said to me about the book.
The exchange sent me back to God Is Not three Guys in the Sky. Sue’s quotation comes from a section entitled, “Image and Symbol.” It discusses a repeated theme of mine—that religious language cannot possibly be factual.
Mystics like Jesus have always used poetic imagery to symbolize the indefinable spiritual realm. Metaphor and symbol reign in expressing the Reign of God behind physical reality. 
I cannot imagine life without exchanges with readers. They form and inform me. In my replies to  questions and comments, I find my own convictions, which I may not have known before or had not found words for.
Don, another helpful communicator, wrote,
Such respectful exchange is good for the soul. . . . I like the saying, "How do I know what I am thinking if I do not read what I am writing?"
Thank you, readers, all. And may souls less fortunate find some blessings on this feast of Thanksgiving.


February 6, 2016  
First, I apologize for not posting since the new year started.

A lot of people like to email me directly rather than post comments. Technical difficulties prevented my posting some great ones—substantial thoughts worth sharing. Even tech helpers were unable to figure out the problem. I persisted and found a genius to help me.

Here are some responses I have permission to post. First we go back to Christmas (After 6 weeks of trying, I refuse to give up posting these).
Responding to “Virgin Birth, Incarnation,” Michael Huberty wrote,
Loved this provocative post. “The only way we grow as Christians…” Indeed; recognizing mythology, even beautiful mythology, is key (which I, personally, found rather threatening, at least as first).
 I did not know Godfrey, but heard much. There was, in the early ‘70s, when I was a student at SJU, a sort of mythology encircling him, too. Thanks for giving me much to ponder about the Incarnation on this hallowed feast. Happy Christmas. 
Paul August Jasmer, OSB, wrote,
The quote from Jung, “God becomes manifest in the human act of reflection,” almost gives me impression that it could have been inspired by Eastern church ways of being with mystery. By contrast, it seems that the West is more dependent on creating dichotomies (a kind of either/or rhetoric, as handy as distinctions can be at times).
Yet there are no restrictions to divine manifestation, as it can occur in familiar and unexpected ways, no matter how strenuously we try to build fences around divine mystery. Thus, I also like the quotation of becoming “the eyes, hands and feet of Christ” because it echoes Isaiah 52:7—“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who announces salvation. . . .”
Another example is the tagline of the ELCA which draw on that same vision, “God’s work, our hands.” To bring this calling closer to the season, I heard in a homily at the abbey this week that we are like Mary, in that we as Christians are also called to give birth to Christ, in our times.
Thank you also for your recollections of our confrere, Fr. Godfrey Diekmann OSB, with whom I picked berries, watercress, and mushrooms, besides taking his course in “Birdcalls of the Patristic era” (as some colloquially referred to it). The divine mystery be manifold in our paths! 
Now back to “Let’s Hospice Our Church.” Bob Wedl wrote,
I see the younger generation as open to the views of others, willing to help those in need, accepting differences, etc.
 Do they go to church? No, of course not. . . . Why would they? There is little of value in the church for them. But they do practice “the faith.” 
Don referred to the “Western patriarchal myth” and wrote,
The words of Scripture and the liturgy do not fit our culture, despite the document on the liturgy of Vatican 2. The words reflect the Western patriarchal myth. Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza addresses this issue of the translations of the Bible as injurious to women so should women cease reading it. 
He also responded to my editing note.
Church is a word used indiscriminately for institution and people’s faith. Instead of “church,” I use institution, primarily because the “church” is first the people not the hierarchy, the clerics. We must make this distinction.
 Words are important, and “the church” does not belong to clerics. To me, this is not an academic distinction; rather, it is an attempt to clarify our belief statement, “I believe in the church, one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic.” 
Don refers to a worshipping community with whom he prays socially and says that,
being outside the hands of the local bishop has been a grace. . . .  
I want statements of belief to truly symbolize our faith. The Church as institution is not a symbol of salvation. It can be sacramental as defined in the document of the Liturgy; however, in the past 30 years or so, it has not acted in this way. 
Institutional Christianity may die but I expect the allure of Jesus will continue for a long time. I hope he'll be joined by feminine images of the Divine. We can see a balancing process happening in our media as they highlight more and more female heroes.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Mind makes matter?

Ever since I returned to religion after trying out atheism, I have been working at reconciling the two. Both atheism and religion ask the big questions of life but they arrive at opposing answers to the questions: Where do we and all the stuff we see come from? Where does thinking come from?

Atheists who are also scientific materialists say our brains create our thoughts. After mulling this over for years, I take the opposite view—I think, therefore my brain forms the way it does. My thoughts form my brain. Scientific experiments bear this out.

And I feel, therefore my surroundings seem as they seem. They suit my feelings and attitudes.Our language reflects this truth. We speak of sunny or cloudy days and dispositions. The metaphor shows the connection between outer and inner. The late Wayne Dyer expanded on this truth:
Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world. 
As I understand scientific materialism, it denies the existence of any inner reality. It does not deny that we have thoughts, which are non-physical, but explains them as products of our brains or physical stuff. They believe outer reality creates inner reality. I invite my atheist friends to let me know if I misrepresent their position. And let me know how you disagree with the following, as I expect you will.

My feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes make up my consciousness or mind. It creates my life. I’ll say it another way: consciousness creates reality. This is the revolutionary idea I now accept and use in my daily life. I wrote about it HERE where you can see the materialist or physicalist position plus readers debating it and mine.  

When in conversations I bring up my belief in the power of our thoughts, it is surprisingly not dismissed as flaky. Many people accept it or at least don’t scoff at it. If it is true, if we have the power to mold reality with our thoughts, we collectively could heal the ills in our world.

In 1988 Willis Harman wrote a book that made a huge impression on me at the time and has stayed with me since. Cleaning out old files, I found an article I’d clipped about him giving a talk at Carleton College for a symposium on integrating human sciences. Harman was president of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, which focuses on reconciling objective knowledge, the kind studied by natural sciences, with subjective knowledge or inner wisdom and understanding.

The article mentions his book, Global Mind Change: The Promise of the Last Years of the Twentieth Century. Happily I found the book on my shelf with a bookmark on the page that resolved the question for me.
Harman lists 3 metaphysical perspectives:
M-1 Materialistic Monism
(Matter giving rise to mind)
M-2 Dualism
            (Matter plus mind)
M-3 Transcendental Monism
            (Mind giving rise to matter)
He said we are shifting from M-1 to M-3 in a global mind change. I see evidence of the shift every day—in myself as well as in events and beliefs expressed in the media. The implications are tremendous. 
Harman warns,
that our world is not sustainable using our present systems. . . . [fundamental changes] can come through vast numbers of people changing their minds. By deliberately changing their belief systems people can change the world.
Whether or not the change is deliberate, it is happening.
While editorials were howling for decisive engagement in the Syrian crisis, the Obama administration refused to send American troops into the war against ISIS and against Assad because Americans are averse to sending more troops into Mideast battles. Public opinion was shaping policy. Thoughts, attitudes, feelings, etc. were creating reality. We’ll have to see how the deepening crisis changes public opinion and how the administration responds.

The same process drives the policy of governments dealing with refugees flooding Europe. Angela Merkel could be very generous because Germans were still making up for Nazi atrocities, but as their compassion wears thin because of economic hardship, Merkel’s popularity suffers. Policy follows public perception. Consciousness changes outer reality, changing the global mind.

I hope more Americans press for greater American involvement in aiding refugees. But for that to happen, enough of us would have to press our government to change our policy. If we accept that our minds give rise to physical realities, we can help to reform the collective consciousness and thus bring about a reformed world.

I believe with Harman that we can collectively produce sustainable systems for our planet by deliberately reforming our consciousness. 

Hours after posting this, I read an excellent opinion piece by Pia Lopez in the St. Cloud Times, "U.S. Must Take in More Syrian Refugees." She gives figures that should make us ashamed. These are the numbers of refugees taken in by the countries listed:
U.S.               2,000
Jordan        619,000
Turkey       2 million
Lebanon     1.2 million
These are tiny countries compared with ours.  Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar says we should take in 65,000. Let's support her.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Divorce, says Jesus, . . .

In the gospel reading last Sunday, Mark 10: 2-16, Jesus says about marriage, “Let no one separate what God has joined.” I got divorced shortly before I entered the School of Theology. The reading reminded me of my experiences there.

At the SOT I studied scripture under Fr. Ivan Havener, perhaps the most helpful course I had there. Ivan was fully aware that the official Church often teaches nonsense. One day in class he referred disparagingly to bishops in denial of facts.

Ivan’s analysis of Jesus' sayings put into stark relief the distinction between the man Jesus and the myth of Christ. His book, Q: The Sayings of Jesus, informed my God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky. Scripture scholars use a panoply of tools to distinguish authentic sayings of Jesus from inauthentic sayings, those put into his mouth by gospel writers but not said by the man himself. Inauthentic sayings formed after Jesus’ death as a natural process of myth-making ensued, something like the process that created the myth of JFK, but of infinitely greater depth and consequence.

I decided that my final paper for Ivan’s class would be on divorce. Researching Jesus’ authentic sayings, I would show that Jesus did not really condemn divorce; I would show that Church law conflicts with the man Jesus’ statements. But after researching the subject, I had to concede that the historical Jesus must have condemned divorce because it is multiply-attested—in Matthew (5:32 and 19:9), Mark (10:11-12), Luke (16:18), and First Corinthians (7:10-11). It is highly unlikely that all accounts of Jesus speaking out against divorce got it wrong. I was wrong in my expectation.

However, from information supplied by scripture scholars I figured out that the reason for his attitude was divorce practice in his society. Only men could initiate divorce—women were their property—and men could divorce for the flimsiest reasons such as burning food. Divorced women must have lived in exceedingly grim circumstances. I concluded, therefore, that Jesus of Nazareth opposed divorce out of compassion for women. Pope Francis’ embrace of divorced people is right in line with Jesus’ attitude.

While I was studying at the SOT, Ivan died, stunning us all. No one on the faculty was more respected, not even Godfrey Diekmann, one of the periti or experts at Vatican II. I had planned on taking another course from Ivan but was glad of one thing. We grad students had to demonstrate understanding of a language other than English. I had used a German source in my paper for Ivan and fortunately got a signed statement before he died, declaring that I fulfilled the language requirement.

After graduating from the School of Theology I got the paper published in Daughters of Sarah, a Christian feminist magazine.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

E.O. Wilson and Ants

Few subjects rivet and rile me as much as the intersection of science and religion. I devoted a good portion of last year’s blogposts to scientific materialism, which you can read by finding the topic in my Index (right) and clicking on posts. They contain scientific arguments against it.
Two recent programs, one on public radio, the other on public TV, captured me recently.

Krista Tippett, host of NPR’s ON BEING interviewed two Vatican astronomers, Father George Coyne and Brother Guy Consolmagno. Coyne said,
My understanding of the universe does not need God.
His point was that we should not drag in God to explain science we don’t understand—God as a god of explanation, a god of the gaps.
If we're religious believers we're constantly tempted to do that. And every time we do it, we're diminishing God and we're diminishing science.
Consolmagno agreed but deplored the tendency to feel that science will answer all questions—conversely a science of the gaps.

Coyne and Consolmagno address the claim that science is open to having every idea disproved and religion is not. They discuss human freedom, dark matter, and quantum mechanics with its finding of indeterminism or the uncertainty principle. In God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky I discuss this principle to help me understand Jesus’ miracles and those of other wonder workers.
At this site you can listen to their conversation or read the transcript.

The PBS documentary E.O.Wilson—Of Ants and Men just aired Wednesday on TPT. E.O. Wilson's 27 books effected revolutionary changes in the fields of entomology, biology, ecology, and studies of human nature. His thought has been so influential that we ordinary people changed our thinking without our being aware of it. We are much more likely to see similarities between our behavior and that of animals than when I was growing up.

Wilson traces a fascinating correspondence between ants and humans. Ants dominate over their environment as do humans, and our social organization resembles theirs, although our increased domains of intelligence give us the ability to achieve global domination. He shows "the payoffs of sustained cooperation" in ants and humans, calling it "Eusociality."

Our sociality expresses as tribalism—the tendency to join groups, to form teams, to prefer ours in rivalry to theirs. Tribalism induces us to compete with nature, destroying what we depend on for survival, states Wilson. So our "hypersocial" spirit is both blessing and curse.

I used to view sports mania with disdain and was a little shocked to see Wilson enjoying fans at an Alabama football game. Exemplifying tribalism, fans surrender their dignity during games, treat the players "like gladiators," and generally look silly as they cheer. It's not my cup of tea but Wilson's more-than-tolerant attitude will make me less judgmental.
Of religion, Wilson said it is the highest expression of tribalism as it seeks connection with a greater whole. It lifts us out of self into service of a greater whole and cause.

Wilson's theory of sociality ignited a dispute with Richard Dawkins, who wrote The Selfish Gene. Not selfishness, but cooperation, generosity, kindness, and altruism are included in Wilson's idea of tribalism. Oversimplifying, we can say that Wilson's opinion supports Christian sensibility and Dawkins offends it.

E.O. Wilson—Of Ants and Men will air again this coming Sunday, October 4 at 8:00 on Channel 17. It will entertain you whether or not you share my interest in science with spiritual implications. A related program on restoration of Gorongosa Park in Mozambique airs Tuesday at 7:00 on Channel 2.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Francis and Biden

I notice I’ve been gone from this space for a month. I figured out how to circumvent the computer problem a while ago but have been putting writing energy into my next book and letters to editors.  

Pope Francis inspires me. Anyone who is not positively affected by him has something wrong with him or her. If this statement is judgmental, so be it.

I have not changed my opinion, however, that Francis doesn’t get it when it comes to justice for women. The gravest injustice against women is training people to pray to a lord, the ultimate cause of all gender injustice. As my latest letter in National Catholic Reporter states, “The Lord/Father image is cherished and difficult to dislodge. But how could never praying to her and always praying to him not affect gender relations?”

A few weeks ago I listened to Joe Biden being interviewed by Stephen Colbert. What sent me to find the interview online is Mark Shields on the PBS Newshour saying that this interview should be viewed by everyone in the country, especially every candidate for president. Listening to Biden was like listening to Pope Francis. And it gave me the same uplift I get from reading the words of Abraham Lincoln.

What is their common feature, the one that penetrates and disarms cynicism? Depth. A connection with the Inner Realm that comes from spending time in communication with it.

Biden teaches us by example to be utterly without guile. He must have had a superb upbringing, shown by quotations from his parents sprinkling his conversations. Negative feelings, the ones people don’t want to admit, like shame,low self-esteem, or wanting misfortune for others, are not part of his make-up.

Francis went through a classic period of purification to become the shining example he is now. In his first leadership role for Jesuits in Argentina he was an authoritarian stickler for orthodoxy, as shown in a fascinating PBS documentary I recommend.  He was transformed from being a hostile opponent of Liberation Theology to advocating for it. Liberation Theology interprets Christian faith with a focus on poor people. It began in Latin America and calls for social change to mend structural injustice.

I wish, but do not have realistic hope, that Francis would undergo another transformation by experiencing the feeling of abuse victims always forced to pray to a lord.

Still, I find myself smiling as I listen to all the rhapsodizing comments about Francis in the media, particularly those coming from non-Catholic pundits. A satisfying departure from Trump-mania. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

computer woes

Dear readers,
You haven't seen a new post in a long time. The reason is my computer woes. I can't say when the problem will be fixed. Keep the faith.     ☺    I don't like this emoticom but it's the best I can do.
Let's all keep smiling.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

John O'Donohue

Beauty is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life.
John O’Donohue
On Sunday, August 9, KristaTippett’s “On Being” guest was John O’Donohue, an Irish poet and philosopher who died in 2008. I was introduced to him when the planning group of Mary Magdalene, First Apostle, came to my house to mark my move away from MMFA. This is the womanpriest group I left because its interpretation of doctrine is more literal than mine.

We celebrated my transition in a ritual—not my idea, theirs, and a healing gift to me. The greatest gift given me that afternoon was a poem by John O’Donohue that impresses me still with its understanding of a heart’s passage to freedom:
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear,
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your heart's desire.

Awaken your spirit of adventure;
Hold nothing back; learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

This poem so perfectly captures my process in leaving that I suspect the MMFA leader who chose it understands how it was with me.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

NCR tells it


July 9
I often wish readers could hear or see the comments I get to my blog, especially if they have more content than a compliment. I like compliments, of course, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the one from a woman whose husband liked my writing so much she asked him if he was in love with Jeanette.

Occasionally I have included emails in my own post, and I decided to do it again. 
John Chuchman:
I am Catholic evermore, Roman, never again.  I don't see the Franciscan Spirituality of Rohr or the Spiritualities of the other Major Orders as being "Roman."
Even if Jesus had organized a church, which he did not, it surely would not be Roman. 

I decided to post three comments anonymously without asking or waiting for consent.
fascinating, especially on Eleanor Roosevelt.  keep up your fine work.

Thanks, Jeanette.
Yes, I read the article in the NCR…
It will take a long time to undo the literal belief in Christian myth…
But I seriously believe we are making some progress.
Peace

Like you, I came relatively late to admiration of E. R.  Barbara Cook wrote a two-volume biography of her a few years ago and I think it is still among the best sources on E. R.  She is very much a “saint” to me as well!

NCR tells it        July 8

The latest edition of National Catholic Reporter focuses on the sex abuse crisis. Most interesting to me is NCR’s role in uncovering the scandal—going back to 1985, thirty years ago.  Jason Berry told the story of a priest-pedophile in Louisiana, and Arthur Jones reported on other molesting priests around the country. Back then, NCR already hit the right targets—priests preying on vulnerable children and bishops covering up the facts. Tom Fox, editor then and publisher now, comments:

We saw these dual patterns from the start. It took years for us to fill out the picture—and we had to do it pretty much on our own.

Other Catholic publications wouldn’t touch the story. Most were controlled by bishops who had little or no desire to say anything bad about the church.

Even secular papers were afraid of confronting Catholic officials. NCR’s courage points to what I like about it. It reveals everything—the crud as well as the clean.

It’s worth going to a library for this fascinating issue if you don’t subscribe to the printed paper.
I can link you to this story about John Nienstedt, disgraced archbishop in St. Paul, but Minnesotans interested in this will know as much or more if they listen to Minnesota Public Radio. Here’s a link to stories showing NCR’s history of reporting sex abuse starting 30 years ago. One story includes Tom Fox’s disclosure that as a child he was molested by a priest, which likely motivated him to persist in covering the painful topic when the rest of the world avoided it.

Like Tom Fox, I persist in talking and writing about another issue in religion that Christians avoid, even educated ones—literal belief in Christian myth. Churches encourage worship of a god-man, ignoring information that comes from science, mythology, history, and studies in comparative religion.
So young people and thoughtful adults are becoming “nones” or non-affiliated with religion. They accept spiritual reality but are dissatisfied with traditional Christian churches. I say good for them. Thoughtful Christian educators ought to stop lazily going along with God-talk that feels stupid to a growing body of cradle Christians.

I am a cradle Catholic and I am asked why I still call myself Catholic when I don’t sound like other Catholics. I cherish my religion, and I explain why I stay in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky. In the memoir I’m now working on, I am trying to sort out how my life led me from parochial to global consciousness. I suspect some readers of NCR and maybe even some writers for NCR are in the same boat I am.